The Graffiti Mediator: Debating the Recent Remakes of a Transnational Artistic Practice
Centre for Research and Studies in Sociology - CIES Instituto Superior de Ciências do Trabalho e da Empresa Lisboa, Portugal
The so-called hip hop graffiti has been a determinant to the expression that takes place in contemporary urban public space. It arose in the late sixties of the last century, intimately connected to the hip hop culture, which was the cultural statement of a particular ethnic identity, that of the residents in New York's ghettos (who were segregated from the higher spheres of society and thus expressed their opposition to the domain and privilege of the white majority), in a wider context of a multi-ethnic city and of a multi-ethnic nation. In Europe, graffiti became very popular in Paris in the nineteen eighties. Later, this practice expanded to the entire globe.
Graffiti has been studied from several points of view but the main fields of work normally focus on the subcultural and marginal character of this practice or on the process of institutionalization that has touched certain graffiti's dimensions and actors in multiple urban contexts. Beyond these two perspectives, we are working on graffiti practice starting from the experiences of mediation carried out by some groups of graffiti artists in the city of Lisbon, Paris and New York, making an effort of transnational comparison of data.
Nowadays, graffiti writers are taking the initiative by developing projects to rehabilitate degraded spaces in poor neighbourhoods. In Lisbon, particularly, we have the example of an informal group of graffiti artists improving these degraded places by painting pieces inspired by the local culture, doing a collective work along with the population. We are interested on the mediation role of these graffiti artists, also to understand the recent mutations of graffiti practice. Artistic practices related to discourses of illegality and marginality (like graffiti), were rapidly reshaping over the last few years. These days the understanding of these sort of practices are central to think the question of conflict mediation. This research is being carried out in the background of the course of the International Doctorate Program in Urban Anthropology of ISCTE (Instituto Superior de Ciências do Trabalho e da Empresa - Lisbon) and the Centre for Research and Studies in Sociology (CIES).